Autograph

It’s been a little while since I’ve written. In fact, the last time I wrote a post was May 17th, which correlates rather nicely with the time baseball season really started to pick up speed. Coincidence? Perhaps not. If you were to ask me what I’ve been up to on any given day at any given time, my answer would likely be, “Oh, you know. Just trying to get stains out of baseball pants.” It’s really a shame that there isn’t a high paying occupation that is centered around the ability to get all manner of stains out of material, because I think I just might be a perfect candidate for the position. I suppose I might have some tight competition with all the other baseball moms out there, but my resume could boast of grass stains, blood stains, Gatorade stains, chocolate ice cream stains, mud stains (of all different types and colors), little black turf ball stains, watermelon stains, and a long list of stains from uncertain origin. Perhaps the real question is: WHO in their right mind thought to themselves, “Hey, I know! Let’s put a bunch of little kids in white pants and tell them to slide around in the grass and dirt?” The person with that brilliant idea was not a mom, of that I’m certain.

Equally as likely as finding me attempting to scrub brown splotched pants back to gleaming white in the laundry room (only to turn around and do the same thing over again in 24 hours), is finding four freckly boys playing baseball in our front yard. Or on the field. Or in our living room. Or pretty much anywhere they can find enough space (or not, as our living room definitely doesn’t fit that criteria). Baseball is a big deal around here, and when our youngest found out that he would get to actually play on a real team this summer like his older brothers, he was delirious with joy. Luckily for my sanity, our youngest two would get to play on the same team, giving us only three teams to juggle.

He’s been counting down the days to when he could actually play since he was 2.

Shortly after the season had started, I dropped our 5- and 8-year-old off at their practice and settled in next to the other parents to watch on the grass. As we all chatted, an older lady walking her dog stopped to watch the budding athletes throw, catch and hit balls around the park. She chatted animatedly about the cute kids and how she played baseball as a young girl. As practice came to a close, the sweet lady approached me and asked, “Is that your little boy in the red and black shirt?” I confirmed that it was our youngest, and she then went on, “can I get his autograph? He’s just so into the game! I want to be the first to get his signature before he hits the big leagues!” I laughed and agreed, completely taken aback by this woman’s request. I rummaged through our disastrous car and found a spare baseball and a permanent marker then handed them to my son, who excitedly struggled to form the letters he can hardly create on paper, let alone a curved surface. She smiled and handed him a crisp $10 bill she insisted he take. As her car disappeared around the corner, she leaned out the window and yelled, “Remember me when you’re famous!” leaving a dumbstruck mom and a little boy who couldn’t have been more thrilled if he’d been handed the keys to a new Lamborghini. She’d asked him for his autograph!

As a proud, biased, (possibly slightly) delusional mom, I totally see his future in the major league, waving to his devoted crowds, making millions and doing commercials for laundry soap. But if I’m totally honest with myself, what that lady saw was more likely a little boy who just intensely loves baseball, was working hard, and had a little bit of skill for a very small 5-year-old guy. She probably thought asking him for his autograph would put a smile on his face, make him feel special, and give him a boost of encouragement. Mission accomplished. I never found out that lady’s name, where she lived, how old she was, or even remember what she looked like. But I will never forget the shock on my son’s face and how he lit up with happiness at her request.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

What if, as adults, we all saw these young, budding athletes, entrepreneurs, negotiators, builders, gardeners, jokesters, dancers, and dreamers as destined for greatness? What if all they need is someone to believe in them, to encourage them, to smile at them, to give them a chance? The world has enough doubters, disagreers, haters, and just down-right grumps. Enough people find ways to tear kids (and everyone else) down. I wonder what would happen if every child, just once in her life, could be asked for her autograph by an adoring fan. What kind of a difference could that simple thing make in her little world—and maybe even in ours?

“The belief that [a child] can’t succeed will hold him back more than any obstacle, disability, or lack of talent.” -Amy Morin

Instead of seeing kids (you know, that pesky one at the park who keeps climbing up the slide when your precious little one is trying to go down?) as delinquents with no hope, what if we saw them as what they are—just kids trying to figure out life with all its complications with what they’ve been given? What if we tried to give them a little bit of grace, love and compassion? In a world full of hate, polarized sides and unkindness, could we at least do that for them? Maybe all that untapped potential is just waiting to be unleashed by a kind gesture. It’s likely they won’t become the next Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. But who knows? They might become better, kinder people because of something as small as one person believing in them. Seems like it’s worth a shot.

For all the time I’ve spent and blisters I’ve popped scrubbing stains out of white (honestly, why not ever black??) baseball pants, I would do it a thousand times more for the experience of my five-year-old signing an old, used baseball to an adoring fan. No matter what happens in his future, I’m sure that small kindness will shape him into something better.

Let’s try to create a world where every kid is asked for his autograph at least once in his life. That’s the kind of world I’d like to live in.

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